Grace shares special bond with Milwaukee Baptist Church
BY JED BUELOW
TOMAHAWK LEADER CO-EDITOR, SPORTS, NATURE EDITOR
Just like it states in the Bible in John 15:12: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you…For everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”
For the past 20 years, members of Grace Lutheran Church and Greater Galilee Missionary Baptist Church in Milwaukee have been getting together to continue to grow a special bond.
Over the weekend of Oct. 17-18, members from Greater Galilee were in Tomahawk to take part in church services and share their stories of overcoming challenges to spread God’s message of hope, love and a promise He made to us all –despite the fact the church is located in the most incarcerated zip code in the entire United States.
Zip Code 53206 – a place where 60 percent of males either are or have been incarcerated, where two-thirds of children live in poverty and where one-third of Milwaukee’s vacant lots are located. A place with a history of segregation, a place where the congregation of Greater Galilee cares deeply about and has been working hard to try and be part of the positive change that is needed.
Deacon Al Hill said the church elected to stay years ago to try and be part of the solution, and not be part of the problem that came as the inner-city community was abandon as jobs left, buildings became vacant and many of the would-be needed services like loan providers and health services followed.
“We have a duty as Christians to do as Jesus Christ would do, to provide food, drink and clothing to all those in need,” Hill said in sharing a Community Development Center was built a couple years back on land purchased by the church that today is used by a number of organizations to help feed seniors, provide education and offer job training and a number of other services that would not be available to the community if not for the church.
Other organizations are working to overcome a large distrust that exists in the community with police, the court system and government.
“Change comes from education and knowledge,” Hill said and added we all need to work together to build relationships to bring about change. “The center is a building with a vision.”
The friendship between members of Grace and Galilee dates back even further than the past two decades. The bond was first formed when Hill and former Grace Pastor Harvey Jaeger spent time together serving as chaplains in the National Guard. Back in 1999 the two churches began holding retreats on an every-other-year basis in Milwaukee and Tomahawk to continue building the friendship.
Jaeger thanked Pastor Mark Ziemer and the congregation of Grace for keeping the connection with Greater Galilee going long after his retirement.
As part of the recent retreat that included a dinner at Grace followed by a trip to watch the Kwahamots perform, members of the Galilee congregation shared how racism still exists and how it impacts their daily lives, like how it is a common knowledge in the black community to expect being pulled over and to keep your hands on the steering wheel during traffic stops.
“Spreading fear does no good,” one Galilee member said during the discussion following the dinner. “God gives us hope and He is there for all of us.”
Another member from the Galilee congregation summed up the sentiment of the evening in offering the way forward.
“We all serve the same God. If we can all remember that we will be alright.”